Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych says he will return to work on Monday after a brief sick leave, likely setting the stage for a new round of anti-government unrest.
As many as 30,000 protesters gathered in the capital, Kiev, on Sunday, renewing calls for Yanukovych to step down.
The president had announced his sick leave on Thursday, prompting concern that, as The Associated Press writes, “he may have been taking himself out of action in preparation for declaring a state of emergency.”
Yanukovych and his government have been the target of three months of protests sparked by his decision to abandon closer ties with Europe in favor of Russia, which dominated Ukraine through the Soviet era.
“Opposition leaders, addressing the crowd on their return home from meeting European and U.S. officials said they hoped for international mediation in negotiations with the government and for constitutional change to limit presidential power.”
“Calling for a complete change of leadership after weeks of crisis that [has] divided the country and set the West against Yanukovich’s Russian allies, opposition figures who attended a security conference in Munich told supporters they would secure international economic aid if they were able to take power.”
“Emboldened by the resignation of the prime minister five days ago and determined to oust the president, about 50,000 protesters gathered at the capital’s Maidan, or Independence Square, according to TV5 estimates. The opposition is gathering evidence of human-rights violations, including “torture and abductions” of demonstrators, for international tribunals, Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyahnybok said [Sunday].
“‘The authorities are shaking,’ [Vitali] Klitschko, a former world heavyweight boxing champion [and the leader of the opposition UDAR party], told the rally. ‘We must show the force of citizen protests’ so ‘the crisis will result in elections and end Yanukovych’s regime.'”